March 10, 2019 8:15 pm

Regina’s Outdoor Hockey League wraps up 26th season, sees increase in newcomers

Despite a bitterly cold winter, Regina's Outdoor Hockey League is wrapping up another successful season this weekend and for some newcomers, it's given them an opportunity to get a taste of Canadian culture. Katelyn Wilson has more.

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Despite a bitterly cold winter, the Ehrlo Sport Venture’s Outdoor Hockey League (OHL) in Regina wrapped up another season over the weekend, and for some newcomers, the league has given them an opportunity to get a taste of Canadian culture.

“It’s just a testament to how sport can really bring families and culture and people of different lived experiences together,” said Amanda McConnell, a program manager with Ehrlo Sport Venture.

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The no-cost league has been around for 26 years and gives kids between the ages of six and 16 — many of whom wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity — a chance to play hockey.

“We hear from families all the time, just how important this program is to give their kids that opportunity. Because of the high registration fees and the equipment costs, it’s just out of reach, especially if you have several kids,” McConnell said.

Adjusting to life in a new country isn’t always easy, but for Aryaan Ahmed and his brother, Saad, hitting the ice is all part of the Canadian experience.

“We never knew anything [about hockey before], but our mom searched it up on Facebook,” Aryaan said.

The brothers immigrated with their parents two years ago from Pakistan but spent their first winter back home. This year, in what seemed like a never-ending cold snap, the pair experienced their first winter, their first time on skates and their first time playing hockey.

READ MORE: Video captures newcomer children experiencing first Canadian snowfall in Toronto

“In our country back home, there is no ice hockey there, and you can say this is new for my kids,” said their father, Mujahid Munawar. “In the future, obviously, as I’m watching them play ice hockey, we want them to continue.”

On Sunday, the brothers geared up for the OHL’s year-end tournament in Pilot Butte, Sask. Each year, the league attracts roughly 400 kids from Regina and surrounding areas, with this year seeing an increase in newcomers.

“I think it’s good because me and other families, they can’t afford all of the stuff for the sport so for us it’s free of cost,” Munawar said.

While the weather may come as a bit of a shock, with all practices done outside, it hasn’t dampened the spirits of the aspiring hockey players.

“I just love it,” Aryaan said. “I want to skate every single time; I don’t even want to stay home.”

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